The events of this week have finally given me insight into Cindy Sheehan. Let me start this story with my sister-in-law, who I’ll call Kristin. Funny, attractive and rambunctious, is the first impression most people got when they met her. The other thing they noticed is she always sported a cast, brace or splint of some kind. Kristin liked to ski, surf and ride snowmobiles and dirt bikes with her brothers, so she always seemed to be nursing an injury. She also liked to have a good time, and was known to party hard - sometimes a bit too hard.
But when you dug deeper, you found a woman who had a master’s in engineering and an MBA, too, so she was no mere party girl. At first blush, Kristin looked like a woman who had everything going for her: a great education, a fiancé and a baby on the way. A few years ago, though, her life took an unpredictable turn. Her first fiancé committed suicide, and she found him the next day, hanging from a beam in his house. Not much later her own house burned down, and she lost a precious dog. And, unbeknown to most of us, she desperately sought the approval of her family, and thought of herself as an unbearable failure.
Her partying got harder, and she mixed in pills to ease the pain. Her alcoholism and drug abuse ebbed and flowed over the past couple of years as she struggled to straighten her life out. But last weekend, she decided there was no light at the end of the tunnel and she could go no further, so Kristin took her own life. She left behind her parents, two brothers, a sister and a fiancé, but she took her unborn baby with her.
The most common words uttered at the memorial service were, “if only.”
“If only we had done more to show how proud of her we were.”
“If only we had done more to help her get through the tough times.”
“If only she had told us how bad things were, we would have done anything to help her.”
I have no doubt Cindy uttered her own list of “if onlys” when she first got the news that her first born, Specialist Casey A Sheehan, United States Army, was killed when an Iraqi insurgent’s bullet tore his brain apart. The list probably went something like this:
“If only I’d done more to talk him out of reenlisting.”
“If only I’d done more to keep him from joining the army.”
“If only the schools had barred recruiters.”
“If only that #&%$@, George Bush, hadn’t lied to Casey.”
And, in her own words, "[if only I had tried harder] to counteract more the false patriotism
[Casey] was raised on...."
Cindy, like Kristin’s mother, had lost her first baby, something fewer and fewer parents have to deal with in this age. Children, after all, are supposed to outlive their parents, right? But, as Cindy processed the “if onlys” her grief turned to rage. Rage that other family members had supported and encouraged Casey’s decision to join, rage that the President had sent her son to what she believed was an unjustified war, and rage against ordinary Americans that believe ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. Read her own words, and you be the judge:
Now I have something to tell you, Barbara [Bush].... On April 04, 2004, three Army officers came to my house to tell me that Casey was killed in Iraq. I fell on the floor screaming and begging the cruel Angel of Death to take me too. But the Angel of Death that took my son is your son.
But my point is this, America: the longer we let the illegitimate pretender to the White House and his conniving and callous gang of co-conspirators to [sic] continue, the more our collective humanity is damaged.
The passages quoted above came from blog entries she wrote not long ago, and demonstrates that the battle of the "if onlys" is still raging in Cindy to this day.
"If only I could stop this war, other mothers won't have to go through this, too."
"If only I can help get rid of Bush and the Republicans, the next president can get us out of this mess."
So, now I understand better what is going on in Cindy's head. I do not agree with her conclusions, her decision to further destroy what was left of her life when the sun rose on April 5, 2004, or her decision to spend her life tilting at windmills, but I understand.
I just hope and pray that someday Cindy finds her catharsis, and lets go of the "if onlys." I know I'm still processing mine.
Update: Still apparently confused unaware of what she's actually saying, Cindy stumbles through an interview on the Indepundit